Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats

336                            THE GAY GENIUS

left and disappeared. While both Su Tungpo and Wu Fuku travelled
all over China in their lifetime, the difference between the two was
that Su was sent about by someone else's orders, whereas Wu was sent
about by nobody but himself. In retrospect it would seem that Su,
Tungpo would gladly have changed his lot with that of his friend. He
would have been a happier man, and certainly would have been a freer)

We need not follow his journey in detail on his return north. He1
was entertained and greeted at every town and it might be called a
triumphal return. Everywhere friends and admirers gathered around
him, took him to see mountains and temples, and asked for his auto-
graph. After receiving the order to proceed to his appointment in
Hunan, he went north from the coastal town Lienchow with his son
and constant companion to Wuchow, where he had asked his other
children to meet him. When he arrived at this place, he found that his
children's families had not yet arrived. Furthermore, the water in the
Ho River was very low and it would have been very difficult to go up
straight north to Hunan. He decided to take a long and circuitous
route, returning to Canton, where he would proceed to cross the moun-
tain ridge, on the north and then strike westward from Kiangse towards
Hunan. The journey would have taken about half a year, but luckily
he did not have to complete it.

In October he arrived at Canton and was reunited with his children
and their families. The second son, Tai, had now arrived from the
north to see his father. Su Tungpo wrote that he felt as if he had been
living through a dream.

He was lavishly entertained at Canton. In the second year of his stay
at Hainan, there was a rumour that he had died. At one of the dinners,
a friend said jokingly to him: "I thought you were dead."

"Indeed, I died and went to hell," said Su Tungpo. "But I met Chang
Chun on the way there and decided to come back."

It was a big family with many babies and young women, and the
whole company left by boat for Kukong. Before they had gone very
far, Wu Fuku and a number of monks overtook them and spent several
pleasant days together with the poet. Then, suddenly, Wu Fuku fell ill
and just died, very simply. Tungpo asked him on his deathbed what
he could do for him. Wu merely smiled and closed his eyes.

Before leaving Kwangtung, he had received news of his freedom of
residence. In January 1101, Su Tungpo crossed General Yu's Notch
and then was held up for seventy days at Kanshien, just north of the
mountain. He was waiting for boat accommodations for his large
family, but many of the children fell ill and six of their servants died
of some kind of plague. During his stay here, he spent his time, when
he was not busily occupied writing autographs, treating the sick and